God Has One, Too
by Edna C. Horning
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3,
4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Cricket, age 17, lives with her Aunt Lucy and Uncle Sulo to finish high school while her parents are on an extended trip abroad. Cricket is devastated when she learns that her aunt and uncle intend to do away with her beloved dog, Smidge. She and Smidge set out on foot to seek refuge with her Aunt Vera, who lives a hundred miles away. Smidge will have an influence and effect that no one could have expected.
When the dreaded transcontinental call to Cricket’s mother and father took place, Cricket wisely let them do most of the talking, answering their numerous questions plainly and honestly. To Cricket’s surprise and relief, her parents reacted — or seemed to react — more in puzzlement than anger. The one time she sensed that the latter might be gaining on the former, Cricket set her face against them, allowing no chance for interruption.
“You probably won’t remember this, but I do. When I was ten, my best friend, Martha Gray, came home from school one day, an ordinary day like any other, and found that her parents had gotten rid of Slats. Martha named him that because he was mostly Chow, and she thought he looked like the MGM lion. That neat-freak, OCD mother of hers said the dog ‘shed too much,’ causing more housework. Martha came to school red-eyed for a week, and we all wondered how anyone could be so cruel.
“She was never really the same again, and I should know. I was her best friend in fifth grade. Well, I’m not ten. I’m seventeen, and in August I’ll turn eighteen and be legally an adult. But until that happens, if you prefer, I can always run again, and this time none of you will find me. Find us. If that’s what you really want.”
Their response to this rebuke was an audible sigh followed by, “Put Vera on.” Wordlessly, Cricket held out the cordless to Vera, who had remained in the room at Cricket’s sincere request.
After a stiff exchange of pleasantries, Vera began to mumble the stream of sounds typically made by those at the receiving end of very one-sided conversations — yes, no, I see, I understand, yes she did, no I didn’t, it will, it won’t, um, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh — while alternately bobbing and shaking her head in an abstracted fashion. Cricket had not before seen Vera so unassertive and was beginning to fear the worst when, as it had with her, the tide turned.
“Seth, Frances,” she said in the calmest and most controlled of voices, “there’s one or two points I want to make crystal clear now. Whatever may be the shoulds and should nots of our current situation, Cricket isn’t imposing on me in the least. Not so far, at any rate. No one who lives in this house is allowed to be a shirker. She’ll work, or she’ll be gone.”
Here she paused to shoot Cricket a significant look. “And that remains the case in spite of how very well off Ank left me.”
Vera paid scant mind to what other people, be they relatives, friends, or enemies, thought of her in any capacity, but this once she could not resist the temptation to plume herself a tad by emphasizing “very” if only by a slight inflection. It had been a few years since she had experienced face-to-face with Seth and Frances, and possibly they had not heard that Ank had bequeathed her more than a million dollars’ worth of bank stock and no debts to speak of. A little preening never killed anyone, agent or recipient.
“I own a number of rental properties in town, mostly residential, and if this girl knows what’s good for her” — another pointed look in Cricket’s general direction — “she will be helping me clean carpets, mow grass, sanitize bathrooms and all the rest that has to be done when tenants vacate. Here at the farm I’ve set her to digging weeds in the garden plot we will shortly be planting together.”
This last item stretched the truth a bit, as they hadn’t actually begun, but Cricket had no plans, present or future, to rat her out on that score. Not long afterwards, the conversation rather abruptly came to a close, and it seemed to Cricket that it was primarily Vera who closed it.
* * *
Before she turned in that night, Cricket, again close to tears, said, “Aunt Vera, thank you so much for believing that I ran away because of Smidge and only because of Smidge. Every step I took, I was so afraid you’d assume I must be in a terrible scrape, drugs or sex or something and didn’t want to face the music. I didn’t think you’d believe I did any of this,” she said, hoarse from the growing knot in her throat, “for a dog.”
To this Vera replied, “I’ll admit it wasn’t just your honest face and disarming demeanor that persuaded me. I could believe you did it for a dog, because I know what a dog did for me and, maybe someday, when the place and moment are perfect, I’ll tell you about it.”
* * *
Copyright © 2017 by Edna C. Horning